What Will Happen to Aasia Bibi?

Huff Post: On October 23, 2014, Aasia Bibi — the most prominent blasphemy case death-sentence prisoner in the history of one of Pakistan’s most controversial laws — had her appeal for retraction of her punishment met with rejection at the Lahore High Court. Her lawyers will move the appeal to the Supreme Court, which seems like an exercise in futility since the Court’s backlog of cases will not allow the hearing of this controversial (read: unimportant) case until 2017. And Aasia Bibi, languishing in jail on a case full of holes, will go on suffering one endless day at a time, dying inwardly, while waiting, silently, without hope, for that final moment when she would become the first woman in the history of Pakistan to be hanged for “desecration” of the faith Pakistan was created to “safeguard.” Ostensibly.

Human rights organizations in Pakistan and globally have erupted in outrage vis-à-vis the upholding of Aasia Bibi’s death sentence. A case that had Pope Benedict XVI appeal to then Pakistan government for clemency has unleashed the Pandora’s box of how one law in a Muslim state has been misused not just to persecute its dangerously dwindled minorities, but also many from its main religion: Islam. The word “minorities” is abhorrent to me, but I’m forced to use it for purposes of simplification for all who are unfortunate to be citizens of a country that has convoluted into such a bigoted, fanatic “fortress” of the faith of its almost 96% population that many of those who are not Muslim wish they were anywhere but here. I read the reports of international groups and activists who expressing anger and dismay at Aasia Bibi’s appeal-rejection intend to put pressure on Pakistan government to overturn the sentence. I also read statements of many Christian groups in Pakistan whose years’ long fights to have Aasia Bibi’s unjust sentence revoked in a court of law remain fruitless. I, as a practicing Muslim, hear these very brave, very resilient voices echo in a well, cyclically, in the asphyxiating, verging-on-blind bigotry of the confines of that hallowed institution called the court of law in a Muslim country called Pakistan.

What is the real issue here? The alleged desecration of the religion of the majority? Or the blatant desecration of the religion of the “minorities”? Since Allah decrees clearly in the Quran, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256), what is it that the adherents of one of Allah’s religions are attempting to establish here? The obeisance to faith by the blade of a sword is neither sanctioned nor viable in the world that reverberates of many beliefs and multiple narratives. Acceptance and respect come from within, from the soul, and no amount of forced declarations would prove to be sufficient to establish the superiority of one faith over the other. The divides are becoming wider with the lines delineated in blood, and the blood congealing in distorted shapes only to await more persecuted bodies thrown in the circle without any armor of protection.


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